Hanging laundry on a New York tenement roof

John Sloan sure had a thing for painting rooftops.

“Red Kimono on the Roof,” from 1912, is just one of many Sloan paintings depicting the view from a roof, or featuring women hanging laundry or catching a breeze from the top of a tenement.


“This unglorified glimpse of a woman hanging laundry was probably painted from Sloan’s studio window,” states the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s website.

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6 Responses to “Hanging laundry on a New York tenement roof”

  1. paulbigdiscovery Says:

    Reblogged this on Paulbig discovery.

  2. Jonathan W. Phillips (former artist in residence CP - 1986-89) Says:

    You may want to add to your tags, “The eight” as five of the group were the first to come to the public’s attention through a show on their work curated at the Macbeth Galleries in New York 1908. They were also known as “The Philadelphia Eight” as Sloan and a few of his compatriots made their studios in Philadelphia.

    Their focus was upon the immediate, and therefore “real” world that they inhabited and knew directly and in identification with the poorer working class that was their neighbor. The rooftop was a matter of fact metaphor for where the rent was cheapest pre-elevator.

    The Ashcan School had a formative effect upon NY modernism, where the radical vision of the Armory show of 1913 hit like a hammer, but also riled up the nationalistic spirit. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how a Teddy Roosevelt responded to Picasso and Braque or Matisse.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Ah, thanks for the backstory. I know about the Armory Show of course, but the Macbeth Galleries is new to me.

    • Jonathan W. Phillips (former artist in residence CP - 1986-89) Says:

      The Eight morphed into the Ashcan School Movement, which in turn morphed into the Social Realists. These associations were more generational than disciplines of style. The main romantic thrust was more a product of the social realist movement in literature (Zola to Dreiser and Dos Passos – succeeded by Dawn Powell and O’Neil as well as Rice). Even these progressions were open to a lot of outside influences and were far from orthodox in their proclivities.

      Forgotten in the mist of Art Schools, where mainly institutions like the Art Student’s League survive, are all the different art academies and schools that proliferated in the twenties and thirties, largely in the Chelsea and Northeast Chelsea Area.

      The American Artist School on the top floor of the Flatiron Building was once such place. There Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Walkowitz, Arthur B. Davies, The Soyer Brothers and others painted from the model and taught classes – not to be confused with the auction house down the street. My father took classes there. A lot of the Fourteenth Street painters, Glackens, Marsh and others interacted with them, and both groups had members associated with the John Reed Clubs, which also organized shows in the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The American Artists School later inspired Associated American Artists – a ‘peoples art gallery’ in 1934 – which sold prints by many of the same artists, who by that time had taken refuge in the WPA – (who distributed their art – but for no charge to schools and government buildings). AAA, started by Abe Lewenthal, sold prints for a few dollars. Now, of course, they are worth sometimes thousands.

      Alice Sparberg Alexiou, in her generally excellent history of the Flatiron Building misses this moment in the Flatiron’s life. She is aware that John Sloan, Everett Shin and others painted the Flatiron, and that Steichen of course famously photographed it. Few are aware that Georgia O’Keeffe besides donating a number of Steichen’s shots of the Flatiron also based a few of her paintings on it (I remember seeing them back in the 90s at a show in 724 Fifth Ave. but I forget if it was at the Kraushaar Gallery under Antoinette (John’s daughter) or one of her spin offs like Sherry French.)

  4. Walk About New York Says:

    A woman living a penthouse on a W. 11th St. apt. building has a clothesline strung up on her terrace. It is rare, but sometimes we see laundry hanging out to dry from our windows. In an increasingly mechanized world, it is quaintly comforting to see Mother Nature being used to dry clothes.

  5. The dreams of the pigeon trainer on a city roof | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] had a thing for rooftops. His roof paintings “convey a sense of the freedom and escape the roofs provided from the […]

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